Questions for the Believers(12/99)

Hello, can 'o worms....

Jitpring wrote:

1) How would you define God, and why are you so convinced that there is one?

I've seen God. God is the creator of the universe we can observe.

2) If everything needs a creator, then who or what created God?

We don't know. Why would that be surprising? Does a dog know who creates the food in the bag, or does he only know the person who feeds it to him?

3) How can something that cannot be described be said to exist?

Do you have to know the physics of clouds to know it rains? DO you have to be able to descibe or even visualize the Otto 4 cycle combustion cycle or the atomic structures of gasoline and air to drive a car, or know the function of a school bus?

4) Since there are countless religions in the world today claiming to be the one true religion, why do you think yours is truer than theirs?

Why do you use the dish washing detergent you use, when all the others claim to be better? There is no "one true religion", only striving to create a way to spread the basic principles of cooperation and love among people. As with advertizing, some choices made end up working against the product.

5) Can more than one of these religions be right?


6) If you feel in your heart that your religion is the right one, how do you answer those of other faiths who claim the same thing?

If it's right for them and leads them to have a better life in their own judgemnent, without hurting others, I am happy for them. Just as I am happy when Atheists use their beliefs to be honorable, respectful people.

7) How do you settle the debate and find out which of these religions, if any, is the right one?

There is no reason to do that. This isn't mathematics. Two or three or a thousand trains are not leaving stations and heading for an intersection where they will crash and only some will survive. They are heading for a destiniation where all can be safely accomodated.

8) Why does God allow all these false religions to exist?

We have free will. When you play a computer game, it isn't fun and doesn't involve you if you can easily predict everything that will happen and react faster than any aspect of the game. God want's us to have a full range of choices or our choices will be meaningless. What we choose to take from a religion and apply to life is the critical choice, not the particular church we choose to take it from.

9) Is the bloody history of Christianity consistent with what is supposed to be a religion of love, or does it simply illustrate the consequences of abandoning reason for faith?

Have you stopped beating your wife? This is hardly a fair question, but I will persist. The bloody history of Christianity, of Islam and of all other religious and non-religious peoples throughout history has more to do with human nature than any religion. The Romans changed little in their warlike ways after becoming Christains, but remained essentially Romans. Can one blame Stalin's Atheism for his murderous rampages? I submit he would have been just as happy to murder under the banner of Pope Josef as he was under his Communist flag.

10) If everything is the product of a grand design by an omniscient, benevolent designer, why is the history of life a record of horrible suffering, blundering waste, and miserable failures? Why does this God go through billions of years of such carnage without yet arriving at His goal?

R & D. Why didn't Henry Ford stay in the barn until he came out with the 1999 Volvo? Why did we suffer through 99 years of polluting, sputtering, dangerous Model T's and Model A's and Edsels before we reached what the Swedes tell us is automotive perfection? God can do things we can't. To imagine that he has not limitations that beyond our understanding would be illogical. CAn we know? Probably not, but we use the tools at our disposal.

12) Why should onešs inner convictions about the existence of God indicate that He/She/They/It exists outside of that personšs mind?

Unless you think you are the only person alive and are imagining everything you see, this could be applied to anything and everything. This is a slippery slope that cannot be negotiated honestly. Am I a creation of your imagination, or you of mine? Sounds like a matter for that Twilighty Show about that Zone.

13) Can a God who would abandon His children when they needed him the most still be considered all good?

This cannot be answered without qualifications. Can a parent who allows his child to suffer adversity in order to make the child stronger be considered good, when all you highlight is the child's suffering? Is the dad who gets his kid up at 5AM every day to throw a football, bad, once the kid wins the Heisman trophy, or becomes a great leader due to his focus and dilligence? Leaving out enough details makes anything easy.

14) If something is not rational, should it be believed anyway?

Love is not rational, do you believe in it? Many processes are beyond a given person's understanding (see the internal combustion area) - does this mean it is irrational to accept anything you cannot explain in detail or see personally?

15) If the God of the Bible is all good, why does He himself say that He created evil?

(Isaiah 45:7) WIthout contrast and choice, there can be no meaning.

16) Is there a better way than reason to acquire knowledge and truth?

One has to rely on the word and experience of others to a huge extent, every day. One must apply reason to the inputs one gets, but no one can know a solid arguement for every risk one takes. One weighs the eveidence and lives life accordingly. Can you tell me the exact reasons a brake pedal will stop a moving car? Don't you rely on the experience of others and your own to decide if you will risk driving when you aren't sure of the brakes working every single time you push down the pedal? Is it rational o proceed when you don't know the odds?

17) If you would answer #16 with faith, then why are there so many contradictory faiths in the world?

Because faith is the balancing of life experience, the persuasive skills of the people one has met, whether in person or through writings. In my view, faith is not a mathematical formula, it is more like a recipie for a given dish. Within wide variations, one can be quite creative and still come up with a pleasant, edible food. The end result is more important than the process in this case.

18) Is comfort more important to you than intellectual integrity?

Of course it is. In the end, only a tiny tiny percentage will let "them" turn the hungry rats loose on their head before denying whatever "they" want denied. Intellectual integrity in an aboslute sense becomes much like Laura's black and white dogmas. It is quite often confused with a rigid freezing of the rules and denying new input that rivals that of any religious dogma. Indeed what is often paraded as "intellectual integrity" takes complete and utter faith in the intellect of just one person, without regard to a thousand equally qualified dissenting opinions.

19) What would it take to convince you that you are wrong?

This is probably the best and hardest question on the list. I don't know what it would take, or I would be seeking it out. I do not disallow the possibility that I could be wrong or that I could not be convinced I am wrong. I have to say that I believe the way I do because this is my best guess given the input I have so far. I wouldn't continue to hang around here if I didn't respect the possibility that I can learn something and I do not fear the possibility that it could change my faith. I am confident, but not arrogant. Can you answer the same question in more concerete terms?

20) If nothing can convince you that you are wrong, then why should your faith be considered anything other than a cult?

This doesn't apply. I know how many times I've been wrong before, so I seek the best answers I can find.

21) If an atheist lives a decent, moral life, why should a loving, compassionate God care whether or not we believe in Him/Her/It?

I've thought about this a lot and I think such an Atheist will be pleasantly surprised. Religion has changed to suit the times and the intellectual capabilities of the people through the ages. There are certainly those who place less emphasis today on the ritual and more on the moral principles and interpersonal standards than has been traditional. Certainly Christianity took such a step forward from older teachings. I believe the changes Christ instigated were meant to continue as people improved their basic levels of education and ability to help each other. You can't treat religion as a monolith here. If the Bible and religion are, as I believe, results oriented tools, then an Atheist would certainly have the ability to be accepted by G-d, just as the Gentiles were allowed to be accepted under the teachings of Christ.

22) Why do so many religious people thank God when they survive a disaster, yet fail to be angry with him for causing the disaster in the first place?

You'd have to ask somebody who does that. I haven't survived any disasters that I didn't create to some extent on my own. I was saved from choices I made in error, not from some unforseeable disaster.

23) If you demand that the atheist disprove the Judeo-Christian God, are you prepared to disprove the existence of Zeus, Odin, Ra and all the other ancient gods and goddesses?

I don't demand that you disprove anything, except perhaps as a defense when some start demanding proof from me and insinuatuiing I'm an idiot for beliveing if I can't prove it to THEIR satisfaction.

25) Is the brutal, vengeful and bloodthirsty God as depicted in the Old Testament still a loving God?

Yes, in the context of the times. People operated on a level different from what we do. They were much more interested in physical methods for most problem solving. To establish authority among such peoiple, a vengeful, bloodthirsty attitude was necessary.

26) Should any religion that demands we elevate faith over reason be trusted?

What religions are you talking about that do this? I have only found religions that to some greater or lesser extend ask that we apply reason to evidence of faith and make our decision.

27) How can the same God that, according to the Old Testament, killed everybody on Earth except for four people be considered as anything other than evil?

Not all religions based on the Bible believe the Old Testament is 100% literal, for one thing.... But even those that do, reason that according to the story, the people were suffering from their mistreatment of each other. It was pretty much like "Lord of the Flies" as I read it.

28) Is the acceptance of religious mysticism, magic and miracles consistent with our understanding of good mental health?

Ours or The KGB's? Once again, you tread a fine line between the unexplained and the unexplainable. Certainly things happen which are beyond logical expectations. Is a gambler, who can plot the tremendous odds against him, mentally ill? Who would be left to run the assylums in a society with the standards you imply here?

29) Must we hate our families and ourselves in order to be good Christians? (Luke 14:26)


30) Since the ancient world abounded with tales of resurrected Savior-Gods that were supposed to have returned from the dead to save humanity, why is the Jesus myth any truer than all the others?

Because of the moral and ethical principles it espouses and reenforces. The core of the message and the fact that so many have embraced it over the years shows the power of it's basis. Can so many be wrong? Sure they can, but it's mathematically unlikely. Once again, one has to base one's bets on all observable input.

31) If the Bible is the standard for morality, why does it not forbid slavery and war?

Have not the modern churches all come to forbid those things? As man develops, chapters should be added to the Bible. In fact they always have and there has always been contraversey over what books should be included. In our modern world, the necessity of new information being attached officially to the Bible has been lessened by the easier access to books and information by most people. The ability to agree that new books should be included in the Bible has eroded with the diversity in the Christian faith. However, there is clear and present instruction against those evils in Christainity and Judiaism today. Though I am not entirely familiar, Fred makes it pretty clear that Judiac law and study is a dynamic process that incorporates new knowlege as man discovers it.

32) If the Bible is the inerrant word of God, why does it contain so many factual errors, such as the two contradictory accounts of Creation in Genesis?

I don't subscribe to the "inerrant word of G-d" qualification as you advance it, and I don't know anyone else who does. Men wrote it, translated it and tempered it to suit the politics of their lives. G-d inspires the book to have it's effect on the reader, not to be a literal instruction manual or legalistic contract.

33) Why isnšt the Bible written in a straightforward way that leaves no doubt about what it means?

It isn't? Read some books on what "the Lord of the Rings" means and then check into what the author says he intended. People read all books with rose colored glasses, and we generally can find what we seek. You seek confusion, it is easy to find in a book that has been translated so many times, and edited so many times.

34) The last time Christianity attained total power, it resulted in the Dark Ages, so why should we expect anything different from Christian fundamentalists today?

I wasn't aware that Christainity alone or even in the majority was responsible for the dark ages. Few events of that size are so simply explained. Perhaps Dr. Charlie, who has considerably more expertise on this era than I could help us out. I would say that believing that a few Christian Fundamntalists in todays political scene, in our one country could bring back the Dark Ages would require a faith in improbable and aparantly miraculous events that dwarfs any I can imagine.

You have from me sincere answers to a list of questions. I wonder if you spent as much time thinking of the questions as I did on the answers, or if they are not just an old series of traps I haven't run across before. I chose to respond in good faith, and you are free to pick the answers apart any way you wish, to laugh or ridicule as you choose. I found it a good exercise, but I am no expert, not an educated sort. Perhaps I am blissfully ignorant, perhaps not. I hope some good results for someone from this effort.